One of the big criticisms regularly leveled at Electronic Arts is that it has a bad habit of acquiring great studios and then allowing them to go to hell, victims of soul-crushing corporate culture and destructive re-orgs.
A list of brands bought by EA and subsequently shut down, folded into internal studios or diminished includes Origin, Jamdat, Westwood, Mythic, Pandemic, Criterion, Pogo and Bullfrog. But there have been successes, like Tiburon, DICE and BioWare, creator of the recently released Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Our history with acquisitions is somewhat marginal
In the last 20 years, EA has bought a major studio or publishing brand about once every year. Two of its biggest acquisitions came in the last decade. In 2011 it dropped $750 million on Popcap and in 2008 it spent $775 million on BioWare / Pandemic. But the company says those days are now in the past.
Chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen admits the company has enjoyed only "marginal" success from its acquisitions. In the future, he wants to create growth and innovation from within.
"I think our history with acquisitions is somewhat marginal in performance," Jorgensen said in remarks made at the Credit Suisse Annual Technology Conference. "We have some that are spectacular, and some that didn't do so well. It's a headcount business, right? You're buying headcount, and that's always difficult to manage in acquisitions. It doesn't mean we won't do them, but I think where we've been most successful is in smaller acquisitions that we've integrated very quickly.
"We've got great opportunities inside our organization," Jorgensen added. "We've built a really strong bench of talent at all levels, and our view is to find great ideas, either through our own development or through licensed IP, and leverage your talent base to try to build that. "